A Reader Called Me A Fart In A Windstorm

I had a reader email the other day to describe me as a “fart in a windstorm” or of no consequence.

I thought about that for a second or three. Went through a range of emotions and then decided what she thought wasn’t my problem.

My problems are my own — which is a very stoic approach to life. Check out this wonderful website on Stoicism.

And remembering that led me down another few thought trails. One of those trails was a system described by Roger James Hamilton in a free ebook (Amazon link — not affiliate) Read the first section and I believe there’s a link in there to take the quiz to discover your own approach to the world.

My approach to life is a syncretic mix of discovery and new. If you’ve read the book, you’ll understand I have what he calls a “creative” approach to life. It’s not that I am a creative/writer, it’s that I look at the world as a playground and want to explore it.

If you’ve watched the movie UP, you’ll understand the concept of “Squirrel!” If not, see below. All somebody has to do with me is point me to something new, something bright and shiny, say “Squirrel!” and I’m off to play. In Hamilton’s terms, that’s a creative.

This happens to be a perfect attitude for a freelance writer.There’s very little I’m not interested in (at least for a short period of time.)

But to sum up, what any reader thinks of me isn’t my problem. In this case, she owns the delete and unsubscribe button and I trust she used both.

That’s all by way of saying you get to live your own life. You get to take on your own challenges or avoid them. But at the end of the day, your life is a sum of your decisions and attitudes.

My life is full of challenges, lessons and insights.

At the moment, I’m doing one of Joel Runyon’s Impossible Challenges. And I must tell you that water is cold!

I’ve started writing in a new genre and am reading, researching and having way too much fun with it.

I’m continuing researching Alzheimer’s and Fitness topics

And that doesn’t include my normal reading objectives — there’s somewhere around 45 non-fiction books (mostly history) waiting my attention after two months of being on a restricted reading level due to some eye issues. (I’ve just ordered two new non-fiction books — one on current American politics and one on a history of the Ottoman empire.) 
Or the ebooks and websites…
Or…

My attitude to life is that it’s to be learned. And there’s so much to learn — it’s like being a kid in a candy store.

It’s not to stick in one groove.

It’s not to live in a way to gain any reader’s approval.

In short, I’d do this stuff and write about it even if nobody read it. 
That’s my attitude. And that’s my life.

So it doesn’t matter what that reader thought. It doesn’t matter whether she thinks what I do is inconsequential.

What matters is what I think.

What matters is what my attitude is and how I answer the important questions.

And that my friends is all any of us have in the end.

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The End Of A Great Power: Two Books

If you’re interested in entering the discussion about why the American empire is in danger of collapsing, these two books will serve as a beginning primer.

The End Is Always Near

Apocalyptic Moments, From the Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses
Dan Carlin (Pub 2019)
Carlin is the host of the immensely popular podcast, Hardcore History,  and this book is an extension of some of his podcasts.

His central thesis in all of this is:

  • The more states increase their power, the more of their resources they devote to maintaining it
  • The capacity to engage in war/conflict with another power depends on the level of resources needed to win and/or maintain the existing empire.
  • States/empires begin to fail when they have to borrow money to maintain their empire and the conflicts.
  • When they run out of borrowing power, they fail.
    He writes in an engaging manner and the fact he’s using his podcast transcripts may account for some of this professionally relaxed voice in his writing.

He illustrates his thesis with specific moments both from ancient history and the near nuclear misses of the modern era.

The book is well worth the quick read of 246 pages (Amazon).

He also gives a reasonable number of “further resources” to read in the index for every chapter.

If you’re looking for a fast read and an enjoyable one to understand this subject, I’d highly recommend this book.

But Having Said That

This book was preceded by:

The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers

Paul Kennedy (Pub 1986)

This book is far more complete in explaining the same thesis but it shifts time frame away from the (mostly) ancient world of Carlin’s book to the years 1500 to 2000.

The New York Times reviewer had this to say:

“He expands his thesis in the introduction and epilogue. It can be easily summarized: The more states increase their power, the larger the proportion of their resources they devote to maintaining it. If too large a proportion of national resources is diverted to military purposes, this in the long run leads to a weakening of power. The capacity to sustain a conflict with a comparable state or coalition of states ultimately depends on economic strength; but states apparently at the zenith of their political power are usually already in a condition of comparative economic decline, and the United States is no exception to this rule.

Power can be maintained only by a prudent balance between the creation of wealth and military expenditure, and great powers in decline almost always hasten their demise by shifting expenditure from the former to the latter. Spain, the Netherlands, France and Britain did exactly that. Now it is the turn of the Soviet Union and the United States.”
Archives of the New York Times

In other words, pretty much what Carlin says. This book is far more dense — as befits a book written by an academic — 540 pages with an extensive index of further reading. Check it out here at Amazon

The Significant Difference Between The Two Books

Kennedy took quite a bit of flack for the last 30 pages or so where his publisher asked him to comment on the decline of the American empire (remember written in 1986 only 10 years after Vietnam) and he did so with the same set of criteria of military engagement and financial management. This drew significant argument from some economists and politicians.

Carlin does not deal with the American situation.

The Bottom Line

If you want to read an engaging book on the subject, read Carlin’s book. I’d recommend this if you’re at all interested in history and understanding how and why some of these amazing civilizations fell.

Kennedy’s book is far more complete — focussed on a more modern era — and is a bit of a slog to get through it unless you’re a serious student of history.

A Personal Note:

A quick review of online comments shows many commentators (particularly those in the U.S.) do not agree with either Carlin or Kennedy when the books would suggest the the American empire is in danger of failing. There are those who suggest the characteristics of ancient empire failures do not apply to a modern world and its economic models.

I have no deep background to comment on the intricacies of modern economics.

What I do have is my Scottish grandmother’s saying, “The piper must be paid.” 

(Every Scot knows the piper is always paid for playing — in coin or drink.)

Forgive Yourself

Let me say right up front this bit of advice is a tough one for the creative soul.

Forgive yourself.

You’ll need to get a grip on doing this because you’re bound to make mistakes along this writerly life. And do we all struggle with this one!

We all make mistakes that require forgiving, and we are our worst enemies when it comes to forgiving ourselves. This can cripple a writer, effectively stopping the flow of words. It’s not always the big things, it seems to be the smaller accumulated things that grind creativity to dust. So however you find the way to do this, whatever method you use, learn or do it.

Clearing out the accumulated debris of life, of forgiving yourself, allows other things to enter your mind and many of these “other things” are great ideas.

Consider this as an emotional housekeeping and do it regularly; it seems our mistakes and regrets only pile up otherwise.

I note this is easier said than done (oh how I note this!) but it’s a skill to be practiced as assiduously as any other.

Forgive yourself. Everybody else has.

#####

Update: I note keeping a regular writing journal works magic at this task. The physical act of putting pen to paper makes a concrete connection that creates cracks in the dam holding back all those regrets and should-have-beens.

Writing only for yourself, you can afford a level of honesty and candor that would be incredibly tough if the work was to be published.

I destroy mine after filling them.

As an extra note, I use a fountain pen. It’s a relic from my youth and I’ve finally figured out why I kept it all these years. There’s something quite magical about slowing down and… but that’s a topic for another day.

Facebook Just Jumped The Shark


Let me say up front that Facebook is very useful in our small real-world community as it serves as a major way to communicate events and even sell (or give away) items.

But having said that, I should confess I’ve never been a huge fan of Facebook as an author.

And lately, I think it’s jumped the shark in its desire to make money. (At least for me as an author.)

So What is Jumping The Shark?

The beginning of the end. Something is said to have “jumped the shark” when it has reached its peak and begun a downhill slide to mediocrity or oblivion.

“It’s said to have been coined by Jon Hein who has a web site, jumptheshark.com, and now a book detailing examples, especially as applied to TV shows. It supposedly refers to an episode of the TV show “Happy Days” in which Fonzie jumps over a shark on water skis, which Hein believes was the point at which the series had lost its touch and was beginning to grasp at straws.” Urban Dictionary.

Gardeners Like Videos

I know gardeners tend to like videos so (in a video) I polled my fans on Facebook

(I have just above 5000 Likes and 5000 Followers – or roughly 10,000 readers who may/may not see the video) about gardening questions they may have.

Facebook showed that video post to just over 1000 people (encouraged by 5 shares.)

This means 10% of my “fans” saw the post asking if they had gardening questions. I also note this was a large response by past traffic patterns.

I made two videos answering one gardening question in each.

The Results

  • Video number 1 was shown to 357 people with no shares.
  • Video number 2 was shown to 1505 people with 8 shares driving those numbers. (Note this was almost a record-setting number.)

A low of 3% and a high of 15%

It’s clear the second video views was driven by shares, but even so, it still only reached 15% of my readers.

While I intended to create a series of garden videos, I confess I ran out of steam with the numbers.

To be sure, Facebook dunned the hell out of me to invest in advertising to show the videos more often. Other creators will recognize the line, “Boost this post to reach XX readers for only…”

Facebook Is An Advertising Channel

I remember Brian Clark from the old Copyblogger site writing that Facebook was an advertising channel and not good for anything else (as an author or business.)

I find the hyper-local information about our community helpful but as for developing a fan-base or helping gardeners, I’ll be doing that on my own platforms moving forward.

And treating Facebook as an advertising platform.

The Only Possible Use I Have For Facebook Now

Is to establish a presence for name recognition purposes. I can link to my website author posts and if somebody stumbles over my page – great. And possibly as an advertising platform for my books.

Why “Possibly” An Advertising Platform

Fiction books are usually sold as series. At the moment, authors spend money advertising the first book in the series (often at breakeven or a small loss) hoping readers will buy the first book and then continue buying the others in the series.

As long as the series is profitable as a whole, the loss on the first book caused by advertising is worth the cost.

Gardening ebooks are sold as one-offs. There’s little in the way of a series “cliff-hanger” boost in sales. It is hoped if the first book helps the gardener, they’ll be more likely to buy a second to help solve another problem.

Bottom Line

For me moving forward, Facebook’s utility as an author is clearly an advertising channel and I suspect that’s fine by Facebook.

But, let me pose a question.

If my intent is to sell books, am I better off:

  • paid advertising on Facebook where fans don’t want to be sold to, but entertained or
  • paid advertising on Amazon that’s built for selling books?

Right.

And yes, I’ll likely have more to say on this in the future but for the moment, Facebook is simply one more ad channel for me.

The Google Search That Convinced Me To Stop Developing My Website

When I saw the results of this search, I pretty much decided I was done writing how-to articles about gardening.

Have you heard the saying, “You can’t fight city hall.”? This century’s version may be that you can’t fight Google search…

I Searched On Google

I wrote an article about the black spot on the bottom of tomatoes. It’s called Blossom End Rot and it’s caused by a water transport problem in the plant that results in a calcium deficiency.

The quick version is if the outside temperature is A) too hot or B) too cold the plant shuts down and water & calcium are not delivered or C) if you don’t water enough, the plant doesn’t get enough water to move the calcium.

None of these causes is a result of a lack of calcium or magnesium in the soil.

So the recommendation to add milk powder or epsom salts (which is magnesium) to stop this problem is wrong.

But when I searched on Google (in July) for this issue, the entire first page of results (where most folks pick their answer) recommended either Epsom Salts or milk powder.

How Does A One Man Band Compete With Content Farms Producing Shitty Information?

Tough. Really, really tough.

I Know I’m Supposed To Keep On Keeping On

I know this but really, I’m just not interested in fighting the good fight any more for those who want instant answers. And frankly, those who don’t want to spend a few dollars to really learn to garden properly aren’t my ideal reader anyway.

I write a book about tomatoes (which I’m updating at the time of writing this rant) which describes how to grow tomatoes and adds a bunch of research notes and tips on wringing the last ounce of fruit out of each plant.

I’ll post it on my Facebook author page when it’s been updated and live

Doing Stupid Things Deliberately

I’ve been interested (and somewhat involved) in a variety of activities and research into fitness and life extension for the past few years.

In that time, I’ve run across some seriously smart people trying really dumb things.

On the stupid-front, I just read a post from an individual who decided to try some cold water activities.    Note, that after he does it, he says you shouldn’t. Then why…

But instead of doing a 5-minute cold treatment in a river in a shower or at the edge of a natural watercourse, this individual decided he’d go swimming out in the freezing water for a full twenty minutes against a strong current.

And then celebrated because his body went into shock, with bowel releases etc etc, the marks of full body temperature collapse.

In short, medically-speaking, it was a good try to kill himself.

There’s dumb and there’s just plain stupid. This was both.

For the uninitiated, cold water immersion has some very interesting and positive effects on human metabolism and telomere length. 

But there’s cold and then there’s just plain stupid.

 

 

 

If you can’t say something nice..

If you’ve forgotten the Golden Rule rule, then let me suggest Thumper’s mother’s rule, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

And would somebody please pass this along to every politician – from both sides of the political spectrum – who goes on a rant.

 

 

 

 

Newsletters On A Saturday Morning

I confess I don’t really “get” social media. Somehow, spending hours of time on Facebook (getting paid in “likes”) and on Twitter (getting paid in retweets) is supposed to translate magically into dollars in my pocket.

Or – to be fair – it’s supposed to create a “relationship” with the reader. And this will magically translate into income when they buy my books

Social Media To Build a Mailing List

The numbers tell another story.  I’ve used social media (free and paid advertising) to build my email lists.

Continue reading “Newsletters On A Saturday Morning”

Reasons I Won’t Renew Amazon Prime In Canada

Because my wife and I live a cross border lifestyle between Canada and the U.S. and we have two Amazon Prime accounts – one for each country. Or we used to.

The US account is everything you’d expect from the advertising. 2 day delivery, a range of Prime videos etc. etc. It’s our main shopping channel in the U.S.

The Canadian account is a waste of time and money. 

Continue reading “Reasons I Won’t Renew Amazon Prime In Canada”